I interviews Cherry Hill High School East Athletic Director Dr. John Burns for my research project. He wears many hats. Not only is he the school’s AD, he teaches math and handles all the finances in the building (the not just for sports, the WHOLE school). When I spoke with him, it was the first day of the spring sports schedule, so he was pretty busy, to say the least. The conference in which the school plays sets all their teams’ schedules. He told me, after accounting for every cost, including referees to equipment, the schools spends $85,000 a year on athletics. The school district does not set this limit on spending; the school does.
We spent a good chunk of our time talking about the people involved with the student playing experience, namely, the relationship between players, coaches, the AD and parents. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when a parent calls his office, they want to take up issue with their child’s playing time, Mr. Burns said. He has every athlete and parent sign a form saying they will communicate any problems they have directly with the coach, but, invariably, he gets the phone call. It’s a frustrating experience, but he can sympathize because he is a parent himself. So many athletes now commit to one sport for the entire year, via clubs and clinics that are now available year round for every sport. And parents are dishing out serious dough for their kids to improve, so when they don’t see their return on investment through playing time in a game, they get upset. Mr. Burns has a daughter who dedicates herself to crew and wants to go D1, but he knows from his work that he has a responsibility to temper his daughter’s expectations. Only the most elite players get scholarships to colleges, so he wants his students to cherish their years playing on a high school team to have fun and make friends. “You’re not going to remember that math test you took your sophomore year,” he said. “You’re going to remember that Thanksgiving day game you won against West in the snow on a fourth and one.” Not everyone has that opportunity, he said, so he wants students to take it and make the most of it as an experience to grow as a person.